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1Schlumbergera bridgessii,  Crab Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus whatever you call it will (probably) have to do with when it blooms.  They are ALL Schlumbergera bridgessii which is MUCH too hard to pronounce, to say nothing about spelling!  So any title you choose to give it will work!
They come in many flower colors, sizes, and leaf shapes, but they are popular enough that even the greenest (pun intended) of gardeners can identify them!
I bought a white one last year, in full and massive bud for a little plant. IMG_4454 It was dirt cheap (no pun here!) since it was past the season (whatever season that might have been, knowing this plant).  I picked it up at the local grocery store for about $7.00!  I couldn’t resist, especially since I’ve never owned a white one.  Actually, when it blooms it has a blush of pink.  So much for white!  But it was very pretty, and still is.  However, this year instead of about 30 flowers it only has 5. Thanksgiving Cactus I’m sure it’s because it was raised (before I got it) in a greenhouse, where on my shelf it doesn’t get much sun at all.
My purpose for this post today is to help all of you who have one of these Schlumbergera bridgessii treat them so they give you as much pleasure as possible.
  • Sun exposure should be moderate.
  • Temperatures should be 60*-70* which is perfect for a home environment.  Note: most bud drop is caused by temperatures being too high, or light being too low.
  • Humidity should also be moderate.
  • Fertilizing should be done when it’s in a growth period, which is commonly between April and October.  A complete indoor plant fertilizer will be fine.  Less is more as far as strength!
  • Watering-it should be moist when in a growth period, but NEVER allow the soil to be WET!  When it’s “resting”, cut back on the water, only watering when it’s dry.
  • Propagation-can be easily accomplished by cutting a section (at a joint) of more than 2 or 3 segmented stems, after letting them dry out for a few days, root them either in water, or damp sand.  Once they are rooted they can be planted in a peat based compost, or potting soil.
  • Resting Period is after they bloom.  At that point they need to have less water; cooler temperatures; darker location and perhaps a summer vacation outside in a sheltered spot, img_0044hopefully safe from snails.  This can be difficult to offer a plant for many people, meaning that blooms may not be as prolific.  I’m sure that is what happened to mine!  Window sillWe live in a small apartment with limited exposure to sun on the window space.   It did NOT get outside this summer-next summer it will!!!  I’d check the soil every two weeks or so in our Pacific Northwest climate to be sure it doesn’t get TOO dry.  They can stay outside until temperatures drop below 50*.
  • Blooming Period-as soon as buds appear, cut back on the water, and don’t allow the temperature to drop below 55*.

So, there you have it.  I hope all these tips help you deal with Grandma’s Christmas (or whatever) Cactus.  It shouldn’t die on YOUR watch if you pay attention to all the advice I’ve given you here.

Maybe this is the year to make cuttings for next Christmas and give each family member their own piece of that family “heirloom”!  Enjoy!

daffodils-1399483I have gotten so many questions lately from our gardeners about their bulbs.  They are coming up and it’s only the beginning of November!

I am a little unfamiliar with  this problem.  In New England (my recent, and longtime home) this isn’t a problem.  If the bulbs begin to show green, they are soon nipped by frost and go back to bed like good little bulbs.  But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it appears this is a real issue!

I have checked everywhere for more information on this problem and have not been able to find specific suggestions on how to handle it.  But, let me “soldier on”.

Bulbs will begin to sprout when they have had enough time, darkness and moisture to produce good root growth.  When it gets warm the bulb thinks it’s spring.  How does figure that out?  It’s under the surface of the ground, and can only react to what nature is telling it…and right now, it’s being told it’s warm enough to send up some shoots.  The bulb thinks it must be spring!  But it’s NOT spring, and we gardeners are puzzled.  We have every right to be puzzled.  Just remember the bulb is not puzzled, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Or so it thinks!

In all my research, I think I’ve come up with enough information to suggest why this may be happening.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amLike so many problems, we often have to back-track to the beginning.  Bulbs need to be planted at least 3 times their depth.  That means a dry bulb that measures 2 (two) inches from root to tip, should be planted 6 (six) inches in the ground!  That’s pretty deep.  Take it seriously!

Here at Horizon House, we garden in large beds.  Those beds are actually large containers.  I wonder if our bulbs think we are forcing them?  In that scenario, bulbs are planted in a much more shallow manner, and come up pretty quickly once they sense it’s warm!  If that is the case, it would say to me that we need to be ever vigilant to plant our bulbs deeply, so they don’t get an early wake-up call.

Right now, we’ve got early shoots appearing…what do we do?  There is not much you can do, unfortunately.  If you cover them, they will just continue to reach for the sun.  They will become leggy and vulnerable.  I would just leave them.  In nature this would happen as well.  The bulbs won’t die.  They might not flower particularly well come spring, but the following year they should be fine.

Remember to let the foliage die down naturally come “post-blooming” time.  The bulbs themselves need the nutrition that comes from the leaves.  You might also give them a “shot” of fertilizer at that time.

37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-viewA further suggestion might be that in the spring when you’re so happy to be out in the garden and are digging, if you run across any shallow bulbs, get them down deeper.  If you buy new bulbs, plant them DEEP!  In our beds, it’s easy to not go deep enough.

I don’t know if this has helped your quandary at all, but at least it has given us all something to think about.  As we garden, we learn.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and let nature “do it’s thing”.  I also feel it’s telling us that global warming is even affecting our bulbs!

Yesterday I went on a “Tree Walk” in the Jim Ellis Freeway Park here in Seattle. img_4886We stopped to look at 49 different trees.  A few of them were repeats, but most of them were a particular tree, and most interesting to hear about.

There is a Street Tree Manual, concerning the trees of Seattle, that you might find to be both fun and educational.  If you are interested in seeing exactly what the plan is: Urban Forest Stewardship Plan will show you what it’s all about.

Here is an article from a 2009 Seattle Times , which addresses Seattle’s need to increase the “Tree Canopy”.  It talks about both difficult issues and ones we need to think about as Seattle goes forward in an attempt to increase our Tree Canopy from 18% to 30% by 2037.

Seattle is called the Emerald City because of our trees and it’s green appearance!  It seems as you enter Seattle, trees and shrubbery abound.  The city itself is filled with parks (including Freeway Park where I went yesterday).  There are big and tiny parks…if you haven’t been paying attention, start looking around.

Today I mentioned the Tree Walk to a friend, and she was not even aware of the existence of Freeway park.  If you want to go there, just take the escalator in the Washington Convention Center (Pike & 7th) to the top floor.  As you exit the Convention Center, you will be IN THE PARK.  It’s a lovely spot.

TREES

IMG_8928

What is a tree anyway?

First, it is a plant that has a woody stem.  Second, it lives for a long time…maybe or usually longer than humans!  Here is a wonderful link to Utah State University Forestry Extension Service.  It gives a more complete explanation.  However, I’ll give you the abbreviated version here.

On the outside of the woody stem is the bark, with which we are all familiar.  screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-54-28-amRight under the bark is the cambium, which in it’s “process” forms the bark and the wood within.  We also know it as the wood “ring”, which forms each year, telling us the age of the tree.  A new ring for every year!

Next comes the phloem (also called “sapwood”) which moves the sugars, water, minerals, and other necessary ingredients for the life of the tree, up and down between leaves and roots.  It eventually becomes part of the outer bark, while new growth takes it’s place.  That phloem (sapwood) is what allows us to tap trees for things like maple syrup!    After awhile the interior wood dies and forms the “heartwood”.  Here is a sketch explaining all of that from the Utah State page.

But, wait!  Don’t shrubs have some of these same characteristics?  Yes, they do, but usually a tree is defined as having one central, large (3 inches +), stem.  A shrub usually has quite a number of stems.

Then there are woody vines, that cannot hold themselves erect.  They usually hold onto something by way of tendrils or by twining.  Sometimes they just grow along the ground.

In a previous posting, I had mentioned that when shopping for plants, a Big Box store might not have the “vernacular” of the gardener down pat.

I am going to assume that you all know that a “Big Box” store is one that buys and sells most products in bulk or “Big Boxes”.  Places like Walmart, Samscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-24-47-am‘s, Costco, etc. qualify as Big Box stores.

They almost always have a huge garden center, with tons of plants for sale.  But, like the other sections of the store, the help you get is not always the best.  Looking for a particular kind of screw?  You’re on your own!  Looking for a variety of hosta? Again, you’re on your own!

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you might do alright.  BUT, if you’re looking for help with choices…you’re in the wrong place.  On rare occasions you might find a competent gardener on the staff, but that IS a rarity.   If you’re looking for colorful annuals, and lots of them, this is a fine place.  BUT, if you intend to purchase a plant that will become a valued part of your garden and landscape, I’d sure go to a local nursery.

When Big Box stores purchase the plants they will sell, we have NO idea from where they come.  The best price may be plants from Florida, or Texas.  They will not have been grown in soil and weather even remotely like ours.  What that means is that when you get the plants into our soil, here in the PNW, the plants may just revolt.  They miss home!  It’s too wet.  It’s too warm.  It’s perhaps too cold. Not enough sun.  You get the idea.

When, on the other hand, you buy locally, most of those plants have been born and bred right here, near Seattle!  (This applies to ANYWHERE you live in the country…you ALL get the same plants from a Big Box Store, no matter WHERE you live!)  Most local nurseries grow their own plant material, or buy from a local “farm”.  They know that if they buy from far away, chances are the plants will not survive.  They can’t risk that, because most of the time they guarantee their plants.

Timg_5597o me that means I would only buy perennials, shrubs and trees from a local nursery.  Annuals I don’t worry about as they only last a season anyway.  IF you are very garden, or plant savvy, you know how to judge a plants health and variety…go for the lower prices in the Big Box Store.  If, however, you’re new at this…pay the little extra, and BUY LOCAL!

12Seattle is expecting a BIG windstorm this weekend!  Get those hanging pots DOWN!!!  Just put them on the ground, or somewhere protected!

This morning, one of the first articles I read on “Crosscut” was titled “To solve water pollution, Seattle turns to an old solution“, written by Samantha Larson.

This is what I’ve been advocating for years.  It is a Rain Garden concept.  Rain Gardens capture water coming from your roof, driveway, sidewalk, etc. and direct it into a garden specifically designed to filter the water, filtering it naturally and sending it into an aquifer, rather than the curb.  As I said in my “old” 2008 Rain Garden post, ” An effective rain garden depends on water infiltrating into the soil of the garden. They are actually miniature, temporary wetlands, planted with native plants.”  Do visit that post and read more.

Here is a sketch of a Rain Garden designed for use in a garden, but it is usable between a curb and the sidewalk with different plant materials.  This does give you an screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-03-11-amidea.  (The drawing is from an article done by Texas A&M on Rain Gardens.)

It makes profound sense to have these in our Seattle landscape.  They need not be large, every little bit counts!  Having them all along the curbs where the nasty water runs, is a grand idea!  It may not handle the entire filtration of the run-off, but it will surely do it’s part!!!

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